The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

What’s to be said? Except that C. S. Lewis is a better storyteller than the folks at Walden. They can’t just trust a classic–they need to add unnecessary people and plot devices and take out details that are important to Lewis.

In this movie, they can’t have a simple quest–it needs to be turned into a search for magic swords. Eustace saves the day by fighting the sea monster in the mist of the dark island (there’s a pile up of plot knots!), and then takes the last magic sword to the table–then, suddenly, after de-dragoning by Aslan, he’s in the water by the ship.

Having the swords, the sleepers at the table awake. There’s no need for someone to sail to the end of the earth. But it’s close, so let’s do it anyway! Caspian doesn’t get rebuffed by Aslan till after he goes to the end of the world in the row boat (meaning he has to row back to the Dawn Treader by himself–but where’d the ship go?). Reep’s coracle suddenly appears on the beach–where was it before? Gone is the scene of the lamb frying fish on the beach–critical Christological imagery.

Read the book for Lewis. Watch the BBC version for a faithful adaptation. Watch this if you just crave special effects.

One thought on “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

  1. Agreed with all your points, except that the BBC’s “faithful adaptation” of LWW is pretty engaging, but their VDT is a snooze thanks to its story structure. Cinematically, VDT needed retooling, and I don’t mind things like Deathwater and Dragon Islands getting merged, but when the whole flavor is lost and it feels like it it all happened in under two weeks . . .

    When I first saw the gloriously episodic Fellowship of the Ring, I thought, “So *that* is how you’d make the Dawn Treader.” Its journey and world was realized with plenty of room to soak up the scenery and ambience amongst the action sequences. VDT needed about twenty minutes more in length to fully develop (and of course, the silly plot devices of mist and whatnot excised). There’s some great stuff in there–the ship design, Eustace’s characterization and his relationship with Reepicheep–but it’s brought down by a soggy script.

    Have you heard the audio dramas, hosted by Douglas Gresham? They’re excellent (with David “Poirot” Suchet as the voice of Aslan). I often just listen to the last few segments of its VDT, as I find its “journey to the end of the world” sequence positively transcendent.

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